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Writ of Palmettus

Posted in Legislation on Saturday June 06 2009 @ 8:10am

In the Palmetto State, the esteemed Chief Justice Toal has been forced into explaining to activist Governor Sanford what overriding a veto means.

See SC Supreme Court Questionsi Gov's Stimulus Role, Jim Davenport, AP (June 3, 2009).

South Carolina is the only state in which anti-stimulus efforts have landed the players in court.

UPDATE: See SC High Court Orders Gov. Sanford to Request Money, Jim Davenport, AP (June 4, 2009), though it's not much of a surprise ending.

UPDATE 2: Here's a handy map of South Carolinian regional BBQ differences. Every one of which is Better than that slop they serve around here, according to one native.

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Ledbetter Bested

Posted in Legislation on Friday January 30 2009 @ 4:56am

Forging pellmell into the realm of common sense, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act today, his very first bill.

We were lucky enough to go to grade school with girls who wore pro-ERA t-shirts, but that, we do not need reminding, was a looooooong time ago. How this measure finally made it into law is a lot longer and more complex than the "I'm Just a Bill" song we all know and love.

What happened was this: Ms. Ledbetter spent nearly 20 years at a job. One day she learned that everyone else -- men -- was making more money than she was, despite her superior experience.

It certainly is a "long long journey to the Capital City!" Here, the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court. The Court stuck to the statute (which said she had to file within 180 days, even though she didn't learn the facts until later), but left the door open for change. Today, that change was enacted.

See Barack and Michelle Obama Lead Celebration of New Equal Pay Law, Dave Cook, Christian Science Monitor (January 29, 2009). "Now you're a law!"

UPDATE: See also Congress Overturns Court on Job Bias, Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog (January 28, 2009).

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Bill Tracks Bills

Posted in Legislation on Thursday December 11 2008 @ 7:15am

We fondly recall Januaries of years past when befuddled legislative aides would call NCSC's Knowledge and Information Service to learn about a major issue in 60 seconds or less. Apparently, having an issue be part of your platform during the election does not necessarily translate into action once the real work starts.

Likewise, court staff are often befuddled by legislative sausage-making. Which bills will affect courts? How? What is the life cycle of the sausage?

There's a new service from Gavel to Gavel (i.e., Bill) that will do everybody a world of good -- a searchable database of court-related legislation!

Forget the expensive, confusing, and vague legislative tracking from big-name legal research. Gavel to Gavel allows users to search by state, bill type, and year. (Yes, big-name legal research is used to populate it, but Bill does the work so you don't have to! Everybody needs a Bill to track their bills.)

Gavel to Gavel has traditionally tracked legislation relating to judicial selection, judicial qualifications, judicial rule-making authority, court administrative structure, jurisdiction, salary/budget, and a catch-all "other" category. The bill types in the database reflect these categories.

Don't worry, Gavel fans -- the database will *not* replace the weekly updates distributed during the legislative session (December - June).

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Rewarding Good Work: Same-Sex Marriage Article Digs Deep

Posted in Legislation on Friday May 30 2008 @ 2:43pm

Is there an Oscar(tm) or some type of pat on the back for Nice Use of Legislative Information?

It's not often that we read an article with in-depth explanations of complex issues. Lawsuit Expected in N.Y. Same-Sex Marriage Recognition, Joseph Spector, GNS (May 20, 2008) is a great example of "how to."

Yay for contacting NCSL and using their information wisely. It's easy to write about same-sex marriage (everyone's doing it), but not so easy to convey the difficult points such as the difference between state constitutions that do not define marriage, states with civil unions or domestic partnerships, and other permutations.

This reporter obviously passed social studies, too; he makes the distinction between the various (we believe there are three!) branches of government, and how each is trying to play a role in marriage policy.

Is it wrong to sound so amazed? We talk about "educating voters," but maybe we need to start with the Fourth Estate so we can see more good work like this.

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Keeping Score

Posted in Legislation on Wednesday March 05 2008 @ 7:36pm

If you're keeping track of mental health parity laws (discussed earlier), the AP has a nice write-up on House votes.

See also House Approves Mental Health Bill, Andrew Miga, AP (March 5, 2008).

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Preempt-O-Rama

Posted in Legislation on Wednesday March 05 2008 @ 7:16pm

Q: Is there any current SCOTUS Justice not in favor of federal laws preempting laws of the states?

A: Not really!

Earlier, we noted Medtronic's huge win. (Which, come to think of it, makes that crazy Britney document a wee bit more sensible, in the way that two people saying something utterly ridiculous sounds better than just one...)

But lately we've seen a host of preemption opinions from on high. Can states control commercial delivery of tobacco? Nope (J. Breyer, plus everyone else, in Rowe v. New Hampshire Motor Transp. Assn.).

Can parties who agree to arbitrate be referred to initial review by an administrative agency? Surely not! (So says J. Ginsburg, and all but J. Thomas, in Preston v. Ferrer.)

What about those medical devices* approved by the FDA? Nope! Lookit the "F" in "FDA:" it stands for feds. (Thus saith J. Scalia, with all but J. Ginsburg joining in the chorus of the aforementioned Riegel v. Medtronic.)

See State Laws Preempted in Three Areas, from the industrious Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog (February 20, 2008).

For a nice rundown of Medtronic and background articles, see High Court Expands Federal Preemption in Medical Cases, OMB Watch (March 4, 2008).

To delve into the "tort bar plot," see Medical Double Jeopardy, Wall Street Journal (March 1, 2008).

* We wonder whether exceptions such as 43.23(g) of the Texas Penal Code to bans on "obscene devices" (aka sex toys) for health reasons magically turn them into "medical devices?" Sure, the FDA only regulates one such device to date, but there are calls for more regulation. If so...Mississippi and Alabama may soon be saying Helloooo Kitty!

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There Oughta Be a Law

Posted in Legislation on Monday February 18 2008 @ 11:44am

Do paparazzi and charitable donations need more legislation?

In California, some people need a motorcade to get their ambulance to the hospital. New legislation would require professional sleb watchers to leave a "personal safety zone" around their subjects.

Is this a step in the right direction? We doubt it. By the time they get around to figuring out who's considered "paparazzi," who fits the definition of "celebrity," and what constitutes "too close," several applicable remedies relating to various laws (traffic, criminal and/or civil assault and/or battery, trespass, etc.) could be invoked. And, it's not clear whether this measure would protect non-celebrity victims, such as innocent bystanders.

See Britney Bill Aims to Prevent Paparazzi Disaster, Karen Grigsby Bates, All Things Considered (February 15, 2008).

North to Alaska, where charitable donations have taken a turn for the completely altruistic. A staffer who volunteered to donate a kidney to a state legislator nearly ran afoul of limits on compassionate gifts. The law, which capped gifts at $250, was altered to allow the donation. (Though the staffer might have argued that the kidney cost her nothing!)

Listen to Alaska Law Change Helps Kidney Donation, Melissa Block, All Things Considered (February 15, 2008).

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On the Ballot

Posted in Legislation on Wednesday February 13 2008 @ 5:05pm

We recently mentioned public trust and confidence (or lack thereof) in Utah's justice courts. Now, the matter may be up to Beehive State voters.

SB 72 would require justice court judges to receive performance evaluations and be retained by election, as other state court judges do. They would also have to possess (at minimum) a B.A. from a four-year institute of higher learning. The bill includes provisions for salaries, retirement, and appointment.

See Public May Get Vote on Justice Court Judges, Leigh Dethman, Deseret Morning News (February 12, 2008).

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We Love It When a Plan Comes Together

Posted in Legislation on Wednesday January 02 2008 @ 5:28pm

Marshall McLuhan said the newspaper was the most surreal collection of stories ever, because the only thing the stories had in common was the fact that they were all reported on the same day.

Some A-Team guy who was not Mr. T. (yes, I had to look this up on Wikipedia) loved it when a plan came together. Then something would explode, in planned fashion.

We're not sure what either of them would have made of state legislatures. But sometimes even the most surreal-looking plans can come together. So it is with the New Jersey state legislature, where disparate ways to save and spend money appear to be coming together.

Who could get money? Judges and other county officials are up for a raise.

Here's where they might spend it:

  • Events at the Prudential Center in Newark, which could be permitted to tax tickets

  • On a 7% parking tax (!) for events

  • If they are also solid waste facility owners and/ or collectors, on a new tax

So here is the lesson: what the legislature giveth, the legislature collecteth. What comes around, goes around. Things aren't as disjointed as they might appear, even to a genius like McLuhan. And legislators, like the A-Team, love it when a plan comes together.

See Legislators to Push New Taxes, Pay Hike for Judges in Final Days, Tom Hester, Jr., AP/Newsday (January 2, 2007, I mean 8).

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January Brings the Snow

Posted in Legislation on Sunday December 30 2007 @ 8:08am

...and lots of legislative activity. Here are some (free!) places to find court-related legislation:

Arizona: The 2007 Legislative Update is available. Nice picture! Organized by subject, bill number, or chapter number.

California: Court-Related Legislation, from Appellate to Trial Court Funding. Includes Legislation Status Charts, Legislative Summaries (both back to 1999), and links to bill search the OGA.

New Hampshire: The General Court site provides links to all things legislative. There's also an online gift shop in case you need a Live Free or Die hat.

New Jersey: Leglslation Affecting the Courts. Everything from state mandates on lightbulb usage to expanding the list of crimes for which bodily fluids may be collected for purposes of the DNA databank. Who knows what 2008 will bring!

Ohio: The Judicial Conference has a kickin' full service legislative staff. The site includes their platform, new enactments with judicial impact, staff and committee contacts, and information about the Judicial-Legislative Exchange Program.

The newly-established National Association of Youth Courts tracks enabling legislation. AU's Drug Court Clearinghouse has the drug courts covered.

Gavel to Gavel is a nifty newsletter from NCSC. Anyone interested in tracking court-related legislation should make a New Year's resolution to subscribe to it. The editor never slept, even before he had a baby. Now he's unstoppable!

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